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tv   Washington Week  PBS  March 30, 2019 1:30am-2:01am PDT

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>> the mueller report, coming soon. acco to the attorney general. i'm robert costa. welcome to "washington week." >> total exoneration. the collusion delusion is over! >>resident trump claims vindication, as the attorney general prepares to release a redacted version of the mueller report. plus, the president revives the health care debate. s alarmie republicans and uniting democrats. >> the president wants to go back to repeal and replace again. make our day! >> next. ♪[music] >> this is "washington week." funding is pvided by... ♪[music]
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>> babble. a language program that teaches real life conversat ans in new language, such as spanish, french, german, italian and more. babble's 10- to 15-minute lessons are available as an app or online. more information on babble.com.d >>ional funding is provided by the yuen foundation. committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contribouions to pbs station from viewers like you. thank you! once again, froto washi moderator robert costa. evening attorney general william barr says he will deliver a version of the mueller report to congress by mid-april, if not sooner. in a letter, barr said that the justice department iseviewing the nearly 400-page document and consering redactions such as
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grand jury materials, information about sources andnf anymation that could, quote, unduly infringe onpe the onal privacy and reputational interests of thi parties. what does that mean? well, it's pretty unclear at this moment. but barr is prepared to testify publicly in early may. in his response to barr, house judiciary chairmanco wrote, ress requires the fully complete mueller report without redactions as well a access to the underlying evidence. by april 2. and that deadline still stands. joining me tonight, peter baker, chief white house correspondent for the new york times.ie ha jackson, chief white house correspondent for nbc n and anchor for msnbc le. yamiche alcindor, white house correspondent for the pbs newshour. anoneliana johwhite house correspondent for politico. peter, inside the west wing tonight, how are they intereting this letter from
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the attorney general? do they feel like they're in the clear legally but still have some exposure politically? >> definite political exposure, becae we don't kno what's in this 400-page report. all we know a two sentences, ar fragments of two sentences that bill quoted previously, which is he did not establish a criynal conspir with russia and he did not charge that the president committed a crime of obstruction, even though he's not exonerating him. we don't know anything else. obviously the rest of this report is going to have things in it the psident is n going to like. what he's trying to do befores then i cement in the impression that he's completely exonerated. it's almos as if he was on law and order, and he's saying, look, they got the wrong guy. the d.n.a. tests came back andot its me. what mueller is saying is, i harge aave enough to crime, but we'll see what else he found. >> interesting thing that came out is that line that said,se on what the president has
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alid publicly, we do not expect to essen hand over this report to seek executive privilege. that is the line that i think has folks really looking into it, trying to figure out,es what it mean when critically attorney general barr says no plans to do this? right? is that leaving them some wiggle room for the white house to call up and say, well, you had no plans, but guess what? we have some plans. i think that's where this fight goes over the next 48ours or so. >> yamiche, based on that point, you talked to rudy giuliani, the president's lawyer often. and you know eett is inside the white house, thinking about those questions. is the white house prepared to start raising questions about privilege? >> i think the political big issues a real here. i think that the president today said that hencas confi in attorney general william barr and that he has nothing to hide, quote, quote, as the president's specific words. so in some ways, thede pre, at least publicly, is saying do whatever you need to. i already feel cleared.
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think the fact that william barr had that letter, now last weekend, that said i and the deputy attorney general looked at this evidence and said we don't think the president obstructed justice, i think william barr is in some ways giving the president cover, has given him something to feel good about, becausee's really coming out and saying the president should be all career on this. i go -- all cs.ar on t i go back to james comey and that press conferee heid about hillary clinton's e-mails, saying she's clear criminally but not negligently. now that we know it's over 400er pages, r mueller could say you should not return phone falls of russian president vladimir putin i they offer -- russian officials if they offer dirt on your campaign, as some did. >> he's also trying to protect his own reputation. inside this letter, he's saying, my summary, well,ou in't use that word, summary. i would use the phrase principlc sions. he's saying this talk of him
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summarizing everything is not entirely accurate. t >> i thire are a couple of things people have to remember about barr. the most important one is that he didn't want this job as attorney general. he was really pressed to take it. he did it out of a sense of duty, not duty to president donald trump but duty to his country. so the trump adminis hation came and i think he doesn't particularly care about getting on the wrongf sidenald trump, as say his predecessor, attorney general jeff sessions but barr, i think, probably does care about his reputation in the washington legal cmunity. the one thing in today's letter that i thought was interesting is barr laid out the kinds of information he' going to be redacting from the report. democrats are sure to seize on tiose reds. one of them was information that could cause reputational har to somebody. i'll be curious if -- so reputational harod to som not charged with a crime. we know trump isn't going to be charged with cme. so will there be information redacted that may have caused reputational harm to the president, w who behaved
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improperly but may not have behaved criminally? >> let's go over the details. in that letter, barr laidut a time line for the release of the report and he explained, ldalthough the president w have the right to exert privilege over certain parts of the report, there a no plans to submit the report to the white house for a privileged re tew. that com your point. maybe the attorney general is going to operate beyond the white househe here. not going to check the box with the president. >> i almost see it as him throwing the ball in the white t house's cou a degree, saying, hey, i have no plans to submit this toou, to whatever degree it's going to be redacted or not, in maybe a few weeks here, mid-april. democrats on capitol hill are not ppy with that at all. they want to see attorney general bill barr -- he, byhe way, says i'll sit down and testify in front of the senate judiciary committee house judiciary. what about robert mueller? i spoke with several members of congress on the democratic side who say, yeah, the threat of
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subpoena is entirely possible, because they want to hear from mueller. >> you reported that the lasting legacy of this mueller probe cohed be, quote, that president has successfully thrown out unwritten rules that und other chief executives and that the president had effectively expanded presidential power in a dramatic way. so even before we've seen this full report, you'reas concluding reporter that it's pretty significant what the attorney general has done?f >> well, the conclusion is that the president did not obstruct justice or at least -- even exonerate him, as robert mueller saidrn that b letter, to conclude that there was no obstruction of justice, then we know the next president can get away with firing an f.b.i. director, can fire his attorney general, with explicit motivation of this investigation inind. it's setting a precedent. and after watergate, we sort o established certain understandings of things, that we were not going to interfere with the law enforcement system
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when it was investigating the president. we setp a law that now expired. but now i think, if this is the outcome of this, if at the end of the day theres no political consequence or legal consequence for aresident's actions, then the next one is going to say, i can do the nex thing. >> and there's political fallout everywhere. adam shift summed up the view of many democrats, who say the trainintrump campaign didt stepf bounds. >> you might think it's ok that the president himself called on russia to hack his opponent's e-mails, that the russians attempted to hack a server affiliated withamhatign. i don't think that's ok. >> leader mccarthy, he called on shift to r>>ign. ll should be concerned with the chairman of the house intelligence commission taking the position of judge and jury. he needs to resign from the
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committee. >> why is chairman shift continuing to plow forward on the russia questions? >> i think democrats believe that having put forward the view that trumpol clued with the russian -- colluded with the russians and was there an illegitimately elected president is a useful argument for them. but you seesi the pnt really, in a campaign rally in michigan last night, turning that aund on them and really using it as a political brickbat. i think you're going to hear re and more democrats try to get shift to pull back from that a little bit, because of what's laid out in the report. you have to remember that robert mueller was put forward -- you had peopl buying votives with his image on it, putting him forward as the paradigm of propriety. given that he's concluded thatis ampaign didn't collude with russia, i think the president, wlding that conclusion, over the head -- beating his opponents over t head with it. >> what is speaker peli's
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strategy as she deals with this democratic feelings about how the attorney general is handling everything? >> i tosnk speaker p is dealing with a caucus and frankly a base that had a collective gasp when they heard of robert mueller's findings or umat least thery or the principal collusionss -- conclusions as attorney general barr wants to call it, because i think there were a loft of people who -- a lot of people who saw what trump was doing ani saying this possible that you could do all of these things without them being criminal? is it ok for candidates to be talking to russia? is it ok for a president to dictate a statement and say, it came from my son, and turn around and say, actually, no, that's not what happened. the meeting wasn't about adoption. it was actually about getting dirt on hillary i think there's a lot of behavior that the democrats saw and were looking at and saying, there has to be something wrong with some of this. now speaker pelosi is in some ys having to shepherd her caulucus away from that idea, bt
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it's a fine line, because there are a lot of people who are still mad. >> i do think it's worth noting rkt part of wherepeaker pelosi and others are coming from, they're looking at what people are talking about, human beings who don't live inside the beltway bubble. it's not's russia. ot some of these issues that democrats are getting questions about when they're out at these town halls, talking with voters. i think the speaker may be keying inhan there is a lot of discussion about this idea of, what did the president d and questions that are very serious about his judgment and his behavior and how that reflects on the office, there is, i think, a desire to get so some of the issues like health care as you point out. >> on that point, peter, when you think about t obstruction front here, we may learn a lot in this report about the president's conduct, things that reported.een but we won't necessarily know his intent. intent?orrupt because he never sat for an interview with robert mueller. if you're a democratic leader, knowing it's hard to prove that
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intent, do you still pursue an obstruction case on the impeachment front? well, there's intent. that's one issue. barrther issue is, bill raised in his letter, if there's can'terlying crime, you be charged with obstruction of justice. if you don't have something to obstruct -- it has happened in a case that didn't have an underlying crime. arguably president clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice, for lyi about something that wasn't an understoounderlying crime. but hallie's point is right the air is out of the balloon here. nancy pelosi knows there are nop 20licans in the senate who are likely or even conceivable at thiom particulart to vote for a conviction. if you're not gonna have a conviction, what's the point of going down that road? it could backlash. >> what would president tru do with that? he would take, even if the house did vote to impeach him, he would take exoration from the senate and say, i win, see? innocent. >> exactly. >> and ihink pelosi can see
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where that train is headed and she doesn't want tout heroot on the gas. >> this brings up why the w democrats thik, and the republicans, are turning to health care. let's turn to that ourselves, because president trump surprised his own party this week when he announced that the justice department would once again try to strike down president obama's health care law. the presidentnsisted the move would help people but many republicans were unhappyth with decision. >> and remember this, because it's very important. anpe i'ming now for the republican party. we will alway protect patients with preexisting conditions. always. always. [cheering] >> i'm very disappointed and vehemently opposed to theni adration seeking to invalidate the entire affordable care a. >> eliana, we have in your reporting this week, some reall good insights into why the administration choose to go in this direction, to suddenly turn
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to health care. acting chief of staff mick mulvaney, a conservative hard liner, now at the president's side. why was he encouraging the president to do this? >> acting chief of staff mulvaney, he was a founder of the tea party caucus in congress when he was member of congress from south carolina. he's been able to bring in some allies and mulvaney, along with those allies, joe groagen and others, they told the president, you made a campaign promise to repeal obamacare and you have not ielivered on you've got two years. you should fulfill that campaign promise. the problem is that republicans don't have a plan with which too replacebamacare. and so those in the administration, including attorney gener bill barrnd health and human serviceshi secretary, house counsel, they were pressing the president not to do this, because they said you can push to repeal obamacare, but you've been here, been there, done that, back in 17, first year of the administration, where
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republicans simply could not ify behind an alternative health care plan and the president's move really landed with a thud on capito hill. >> you heard the president say in that clip that he wants to protect peoe with preexisting conditions. ok. how? th there is an acknowledgment from the sources i talk to, they don't have an answer to that estion. >> then why are they doing this? >> because the president sees it as a political winner, despite the fact that docrats proved, for them, it was more politically advantageous in thes midt to eliana's point, we also understand that vice president pence had questions about not the actual policy, which he supports, but about the political ramificat exactly what you're talking about with these republicans coming out and going, what are we supposed to do? we're now backed in a corner elth no way forward. >> it's veryng that the president himself said to republicans on capitol hill, come up with a plan. i'd like you guys to come up with a plan. you know, that is not usually how it works. it's usually domestic policy aids inside the white house to
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come up with a plan and then republicans on capitol hill on board with the plan that they've written. >> and democrats on the campaign trail for 2020, they want to talk about kitchen table issuest they'realking about the russia probe. >> this is -- republicans are in such a bad political position on health care. precisely because of the president. today or this week, hallie and i were on the lawn, screaming questions at thesi pnt. >> i'm sure you weren't screaming. >> shouting questions at the president. >> you were screaming because of the helicopters. >> all the context that we mean. and thene word i could come up with was time line. what is your time line for coming up with a plan? the president says, once we get to the supreme court and this lawsuit is dealt with, we'll come up wh a plan. if you're talking to suburban women who are very much what republnans need to win i 2020, they're a lot of women looking around saying, ok, b d whats that actually mean? if you take away my health care going to beam i left with? all the sourcing that i've been doing, the white house is not even trying to act like they have a plan. they do not have a plan.
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>> what's surprising about him doing this, of course, is thatis as otherwise been the best week of his presidency. right? you know, he's, been clear in his way of putting it, on the mueller report. we'll see what it actuay says. but for the moment, it is true that he doesn't face an allegation of criminal conspiracy with russia. that's an important moment for him. why then change the subjecto a strength of your opponents? why change it to something that they themselves would like to changehe subject to? it's a mystery. >> and it was a mystery to leader mcconnell i the senate, to minority leader mccarthy, w reportedly privately urged the president to not pursue this initiative. >> i that had to -- it's our understanding there was a badline. so something had t done. but this was the moment that acting chief of sneff mul and others decided to pitch, in the words of one person, pitch the president on this idea and hy to get to do it. to peter's point, remember sunday and monday, which feels like 100 years ago, the attorney general's letter came out, his
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chief antagonist ended up arged criminally. he had one of his closest allies, benjamin netanyahu, over to the white house to with him. he was riding high. while democrats may hav gasped about the mueller report -- >> they aleed, my cue asked, why are you doing this? ee said too much positive news. we had to cha the subject. >> i keep coming back, eliana, to your reporting and the why?ion of, and when you look at someone like mick mulvaney, a rushed vote, a name most americans don't know but he runs the office of management and budget as the acting director, even though presidentrump says he's a populist, an everyman, a businessman, inside ofs t administration, so many conservative ideologues. >> yeah. and mulvaney is case in point of that. really an ideological conservative and the firstgi ideol conservative to be chief of staff. john kelly was a military. m
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reince priebus was really an established political operative. but this is really the first window into how mulvaney is wielding his power. john kelly really tried to restrict access to the obviously office. mulvaney came in and said, i'm not going to do that. but what he has done is brought in a lot of ideological -- he's given those people who he's brought in access to the president and those were the people who carried the day in these argumentsbout whether to pursue this path on obamacare. >> if that'she case, does this make divided government, deals between speaker pelosi and president trump on prescription drugs, on infrastructur hder if conservatives are driving the agenda inside? >> i think it's possible. i think it's already going to be herd, because from very beginning, when the president realized he was going to be faced with a hse thatas controlled by nancy pelosi, she said -- he said if you investigate me, i'm g already have issues with you and
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not want to legislate with you, so i don't know i looking forward, people are saying that a lot of things are going to get h.ne to begin w but i go back to president trump's personality. inauguration, one of his first isis, one of the first issues he had was him comparing his inauguration crowds with president obama. everyone thought, you just got inaugurated president of the uned states. y are you picking this fight? i think he likes the idea of reallyealing and talking about a program passed by president obama. >> speaking of respectfully engaging with the president outside of the white house, not screaming -- >>[laughter] here was a telling exchange you had with other reporters with the president this week thates undersc this conservative drift that we're paying attention to as reporters. education secretary devos learned a hard lesson when she proposed cutting funding for the special olympics. she faced tough questions to zero out federal funds for the special olympics. then on thursday, the president
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turned theables on her. >> i just authorized funding of the special olympics. i've been to the special olympics. i thinkre it's ible. and i just authorized a funding. i heard about it this morning. i have overridden my people with nding the special olympics. >> not just majority leader, mcconnell, a minority leader,ho mccarthy,eemed to be a little uneasy with this shift to the right. even president trump has reservations. >> when the president says i'm going to authorize funding, he does not do the authorizations for the budget. congress does. they had already said,ot we're cutting the special olympics. the program was never really at risk. others in the organization i had conversaons with, they said, the administration has weight. what president trump sets forward as his priorities have dweight with people aro the country. for them to have changed their mind, they felt like this carried symbolic significance. ias frankly very surprised to
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hear that response to myhe question toresident. he does not reverse course often. it seemed like the political pressure had built enough. and now one of my big questions is, what does this mean for secretary devos's future? she had become the face of this controversy very much. she came out -- and i spoke with her folks right after this moment happened. they sai well, she's been fighting behind the scenes on this for years, yet there she was, publicly defending her boss's budget. >> that's a problem.e if youorking for president trump, this is a position you're likely to be caught in. d you'reending the policy that you have been handed. this is probably the mick mulvaney crowds creating a budg that president trump has probably not read in any detail. and it includes a lotf conservative lists, let's go ahead and get rid of thisnd g, that funding. but it will never actually happen because congress won't go along wit's it. een in the budget for years now. nobody paid attention to it until suddenly it got a little bit of attention from
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entertainment reporter and betsy devos was left to defend something he really didn't have much to do with. >> and she was out the herself, saying, you know what? we like this program, understand tht program, but a the end of the day, this can be done through planthropic endeavors. when devos got that job, people were very worried with the ideai that she was to have the private sector starting to fund all sorts of things that the federal government usually takes the leadt on. think that this is -- as hallie said, i think now maybe we'r a littleit on devos watch, in that the president let her kind of be the face of this. then when he felt like it was advantageous to him, he reversed course. but i don't know what that means arr betsy devos. >> it's what said, who was involved in that first fire exchange. he said, has anybody checked on betsy devos to see that she's still under the bus that the president just threw her under? >> the president does not like when his cabinet officials
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attract negative p.r. he's somebody who doesn't follow the detail-t dday operations of his cabinet agencies but he does pay attention whe cabinet secretaries appear in hearings on capitol hill that are televised. he certainly was aware of those uncomfortable exchanges that devos had on capitol hill this week and was not particularly them.d with >> thanks, everybody, for another good conversation. our conversation will continue as eshr on the "gton week" extra, available on our website, facebook or youtube, every friday after 8:30 p.m. while you're there, take our election 2020 survey on the home page. i'm robert costa. have a great weekend! ♪[music]
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>> corporate funding is provided by... ♪[music] >> babble. a language program that teaches real life conversations in a new language, such as spanish, french, german, italian and mo. babble's 10- to 15-minute lessons are available as an app ornline. more information on babble.com. >> additional funding isov ed by the yuen foundation. committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. the corporaon for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like y. thank you! >> you're watching pbs.
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>>rom the museum of the city of new york's david berg distinguished speakers series... >> for women of my generation, getting the first job was the big hurdle. >> ...supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg jo npr correspondent nina totenberg in conversation. >> can this institution really stay away from the political fray? >> for one thing, we are by far the most collegialnstitute in town. we all respect and even genuinely like each other. >> this program was made possible by viewers like you. [ applause ] >> thank you. >> okay. everyone please be seated. >> so, i'm going to start out

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